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It was a quarterfinal fitting of a final, and Novak Djokovic felt Rafael Nadal deserved to win.
“He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those particular moments in the beginning of all sets, except the fourth,” Djokovic told reporters after Nadal’s four-set victory on Tuesday. “…I had my chances … he showed why he’s a great champion, staying mentally tough … he deserved it.”
While Nadal won 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4), it seemed as if the two legends would trade sets on the way to a decisive fifth.
After all, Nadal took the first and third, while Djokovic took the second and held a 5-2 lead in the fourth. That’s when the 13-time French Open champion reached “another level” and rallied back to force a tiebreak that he won with relative ease.
It was more of the same at Roland Garros for the Spaniard, who also defeated Djokovic in the 2020 final. While the Serbian won in the 2021 semifinals, bragging rights are now back on the side of the King of Clay.
He also extended his record to a stunning 101-1 at the French Open when winning the first set.
Nadal already passed Djokovic and Roger Federer with his 21st Grand Slam title when he won the Australian Open in January. He is two victories away from adding to his overall legacy and record at the French Open, but things won’t come easy even after defeating a fellow great.
He will face Alexander Zverev in the semifinals after the No. 3 seed defeated Carlos Alcaraz in four sets in another quarterfinals match.
Nadal holds a 6-3 advantage in head-to-head matches, although Zverev has won three of the last four.